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Somali military faction raid UAE-backed army camp

Somali troops are fighting for control against al-Shabab militants [AFP]

Date of publication: 23 April, 2018

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Somali troops trained by the UAE fled their posts when a rival faction raided their camp to steal weapons.

A shootout between two rival Somali army factions broke out on Monday, as troops raided a camp manned by soldiers trained by the UAE.

Somali personnel at the UAE training camp reportedly retreated en masse as a rival military faction took over the camp in the capital, Mogadishu.

Many of the troops trained by Abu Dhabi fled on rickshaws, leaving behind weapons and discarding their uniforms, Reuters reported.

Troops from the UAE-linked faction alleged that their rivals had attempted to steal weapons and equipment but were soon repelled, according to the news agency.

"Some Somali military forces attacked us at the base, they wanted to loot it but we repulsed them," Ahmed Nur, a soldier from the UAE military training programme.

A brief gun battle broke out before presidential palace guards secured the camp. 

General Abdiweli Jama Gorod, commander of the Somali National Army, said they detained several troops caught trying to steal equipment from the camp.

"The Somali national forces now have in hand the few soldiers and officers who were behind today's incident and we assure we shall bring them before justice," he told Somalia's national news agency.  

The UAE announced two weeks ago it was ending its military training programme in Somalia, days after Mogadishu said it would take over the scheme.

It followed Mogadishu's seizing of millions of dollars from Emirati diplomats, which the UAE claims was to pay the salaries of the trainers of the Somali troops.

Hours before the raid on the camp, Emirati troops were filmed loading lorries and leaving the base on off-road vehicles. Al Jazeera reported that military hardware from the camp had been shipped to a nearby port.

The broadcaster said soldiers from the faction that raided the camp were acting on orders of the Mogadishu government to close the Emirati training programme.

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Footage from Al Jazeera showed Somali officers inspecting the camp, after a week of tensions between the government and the UAE.

"We have taken over everything in this base. From now on the government will fund the training, pay and equip the soldiers trained here," Abdullah Ali Anod, deputy army commander told reporters.

Days earlier, a UAE-funded hospital in Mogadishu was closed by Abu Dhabi. 

Tensions between Somalia and the UAE have been high since Abu Dhabi began construction on a major port and military base in the breakaway region of Somaliland last year.

Last month, Somalia's ambassador to the UN, Abukar Osman, complained to the Security Council about the development in Berbera saying it was a "clear violation of international law".

In addition to training Mogadishu's troops, the UAE is also aiding Somaliland security forces.

Relations between the two countries first soured last June, when the Somali government refused to back the Saudi and UAE-led blockade on Qatar.

Qatar ally Turkey has also recently opened a military base in Mogadishu to train Somali troops.

Somalia has been in chaos since a civil war broke out in 1991, with Islamist insurgent group al-Shabab taking advantage of the power vacuum.

Al-Shabab has been fought back, but continues to launch devastating attacks on Somali troops and bombings in the capital.

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